OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Oscar Frayer, a homegrown, rising basketball star from Oakland, is being remembered a kind, gentle, talented athlete who came from humble beginnings.
Frayer, a senior at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, was killed in an early morning crash near Lodi on I-5 Tuesday morning, three days after playing in the NCAA Tournament. Investigators said Frayer was in a Subaru SUV with two other occupants when the vehicle veered off the road at 2:30am, and struck a CHP patrol car. The Subaru then careened off the road, struck a tree and caught fire.
All three passengers died, however it was not clear who was driving the vehicle at the time of the impact. Two CHP officers suffered serious injuries.
Photos posted to the CHP Stockton Facebook page show severe damage to the right rear of the patrol car.
Frayer and the rest of his Grand Canyon University teammates had dispersed, after falling to Iowa 74-86 in the first round of the tournament on Saturday. It was GCU's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Frayer had apparently returned to visit family in California, according to longtime mentor Chris Major.
"I want many stories to be told about the humanness of him. The kind of man he was, the kind of person he was beyond just stardom. He was very human and he carried himself with a tremendous amount of dignity," said Major.
After his father was killed in a car crash, Frayer was raised by his mother along with his three siblings. Major first met Frayer as a 4th grader at St. Bede Catholic School in Hayward.
Major said he immediately recognized Frayer's athletic prowess, but also strong sense of teamwork. Major shifted basketball coaching duties to other staff, and helped guide Frayer through his academics and life outside the campus.
"He didn't want to shoot the ball and score 30 points like all the other kids," said Frayer. "He could've easily gotten 15 rebounds, 25 points, blocked 8 shots. But he always wanted to be the team guy."
Frayer went on to play nearby for Moreau Catholic High School, also in Hayward, where he averaged 14.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game from 2012 to 2016. In one notable win in January 2016 against Sacramento High, Northern California's top ranked team at the time, Frayer's modesty was on display when speaking about Sacramento's star player Solomon Young.
"I don't feel like we stopped him because Solomon Young is a monster," said Frayer in a postgame interview. "All props to him."
At Grand Canyon University, Frayer was one of the college's best hopes at getting a berth at the NCAA Tournament. However, in his senior year, Frayer was academically ineligible, disappointing teammates and fans.
GCU brought Frayer back to the squad for his fifth year to much fanfare and excitement, and the university went on to the Big Dance for the first time in its 71-year history.
In a GCU video titled "Oscar Frayer's Return to the Court", he appeared remorseful.
"It was a lot of distractions off the court, it was a lot of distractions on the court, as well. Just coming in and not being focused, just having the wrong crowd around me, I believe. Having to literally lean on my teammates and lean on my guys, that want to see me win, and letting them down, I feel like that was the biggest part for me," said Frayer "My mother, she's been my backbone through it all. She supported me through good or bad, she's definitely stated that you got to make decisions, you got to change."
About the return to GCU, Frayer said, "It meant the world to me because I don't want to go through the same things that I went through last year, breaking habits, just having the will and want to be better. And be a better person on the court and off the court."
"You talk about Black Lives Matter now, Oscar exemplified the depths of what a Black man could be through perseverance and resiliency," said Major. "The whole nature of man wanting to include and be inclusive, with all of us not marginalizing based on race and color. We're all ordained in the dignity of Christ and created that way. And I think we need to get back to that kind of spirit and I think, Oscar, represented that spirit."
Moreau released this statement Wednesday:
Moreau Catholic High School is aware of multiple, unconfirmed reports that our alumnus, Oscar Frayer '16, was killed in a vehicle collision two nights ago. Please join us in holding the family and loved ones in prayer during this difficult time. Along with everyone, we are anxiously awaiting further details. Saint Andre Bessette and Blessed Father Moreau, Pray for Us!
Oscar's mother Bionca did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
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